After reading a variety of inspiring fiction writers this summer—Thisbe Nissen, Jhumpa Lahiri, Denis Johnson, Karen Russell—I felt the need to write some of my own.
I am in the process of creating a somewhat-longer fiction piece (well, longer for ME, anyway), and I’m expecting this is either an entry point that will be cut later or a sort-of prologue/present tense marker. I would love to hear your feedback.
[WHAT BALLOONS ARE MADE OF]
The story begins and ends on a porch.
The man stands there, his feet weighing out the lifespan of the creaking boards, and finishes off three partially-filled balloons from a small helium tank. Red, white and blue. Ties the three bodies to strings, strings to the porch railing. He lets them drift quietly on the low-breeze afternoon. There are white carnations nearby.
At the sixth minute, a pin. The man pops one, pauses, and pops another. The third. Liberty. Freedom. . . Pride.
The look on his face is unreadable, scrutinizing. His jaw line squares out as he observes the worm-like objects hanging from their white strings.
Very slowly, his left hand, scarred along the back from too many years in construction, leans in and out of his pocket, producing a thin pink balloon, one like all the others from the 52-count set—52 card pick-up—placed in the kitchen drawer next to the knives and defunct barbecue utensils. He takes a deep breath.
He only places enough helium in the balloon to allow it to waver on air, hesitantly, as if it might sink, as if it were too weak or too young to fend for itself. He ties it to a string.
Only three minutes go by before the pin enters its surface, the man’s lower lip trembling, his darkly-tanned face streaked with tears. Pop. He leans hard over the rail.
It took them six minutes, he thinks. They were three minutes too late.
The man turns and goes back inside, the creaking door and the hanging balloons the only sign he had been out-of-doors.